The Falcons and Saints have played the most reliably entertaining games of any NFC rivalry over the last few years. The last four games between the two teams have been decided by exactly three points.
That streak ended dramatically on Monday night for a good reason: The Falcons are no longer in the same class as the Saints.
New Orleans won 45-16 in a game that will be remembered as the night Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s passing yardage record. It should also be remembered for the Saints re-establishing themselves as the dominant team in the NFC South.
It was only a year ago that the Falcons were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Now Atlanta is a good-not-great unit incapable of beating high quality competition.
They have lost to the Packers, Texans, and now the Saints twice. The Falcons came into this year looking for more playmakers on offense, but the total lack of a running game has negated the boost that Julio Jones gives to the offense.
While Atlanta’s defense has appeared improved this year, they had no answer for Brees. The pass rush was non-existent. New Orleans converted their first nine third downs, four of them on third-and-long. The Saints rushed for 164 yards on only 21 attempts.
Now 12-3, the Saints could tie for the best regular season record ever for any team that doesn’t get a playoff bye. The 49ers just have to beat St. Louis to clinch the No. 2 seed and push the Saints down to the third seed.
The Falcons, meanwhile, will be the No. 5 or No. 6 seed. They don’t look like a team capable of going far in the playoffs or stopping a high powered passing attack.
It is very possible that these two teams will play again in the Superdome only two weeks from now.
That’s a rematch the Saints should welcome.